Teacher Workforce

Overview

Teacher Workforce

Many efforts to improve U.S. education today focus squarely on the “talent strategy” – how to get more great teachers into the pipeline and keep them in the classroom.

Many efforts to improve U.S. education today focus squarely on the “talent strategy” – how to get more great teachers into the pipeline and keep them in the classroom. Citing evidence that some teachers are consistently more effective than others at spurring student learning, reformers have prodded the field in recent years to stop regarding teachers as interchangeable.The upshot is that the national conversation has shifted from a focus on “teacher quality,” often defined as formal educational credentials,  to “teacher effectiveness” – whether teachers are successful at improving their students’ performance, often as measured on standardized tests.

Supporters of the shift in emphasis cite research suggesting that individual teachers have a greater influence over how much students actually learn than any other factor within schools. According to a prominent study by three economists, for example, teacher quality directly accounts for nearly 7.5 percent of the variation in achievement among individual students, and that number actually might range as high as 20 percent.

So if teachers have a greater impact on student achievement than any other factor within schools, how is the nation doing at recruiting, training, and retaining the best teachers? How can we evaluate if teachers are effective? Should teachers be paid for performance? Should experience count? How can teaching be transformed into a more prestigious profession? Those are some of the questions explored in the publications, news stories, and other information assembled in this Topics section.

Experiments are under way to change how teachers are prepared—both in colleges of education and through a growing array of alternative routes into the field. The scrutiny of teachers already in the classroom is also intensifying. A related issue is how to get the most talented teachers into hard-to-staff schools and whether higher pay should be part of the equation.

Reevaluating Evaluations

Prompted in part by the federal Race to the Top grant competition, growing numbers of states and school districts are finding ways to incorporate measures of teacher effectiveness into personnel decisions, including performance evaluations, the awarding of tenure, and the level of individual teachers’ pay.  With teachers complaining that evaluation systems don’t provide guidance on how to improve, and administrators arguing that current processes make it too tough to shed poor performers, the push to reform teacher evaluations has gained unprecedented momentum. Many state legislatures have passed provisions that break with past practice by incorporating student performance into teacher ratings.  Washington, D.C., is among the districts that have overhauled their teacher-evaluation systems, while significant change is underway in such places as Chicago; Hillsborough County, Fla.; Los Angeles; Memphis, Tenn.; New Haven, Conn.; and elsewhere.

Still, not everyone agrees that student performance should be a dominant element of evaluation systems. Many educators and others are deeply concerned about anointing standardized test scores as the predominant yardstick for measuring student gains. Critics see evaluation systems based too heavily on growth in student test scores as prescriptions for low morale, high teacher turnover, and even cheating by educators.

Fresh Looks at Preparation

Yet to some educators and analysts, all the angst about the current teaching corps is misplaced. Do a better job of recruiting and training educators before they teach their first class, they argue, and the qualms about quality will diminish, if not evaporate.

Studies have shown that U.S. schools of education typically enroll students with less impressive academic profiles than their counterparts in countries that fare better on international tests of K-12 students. A 2010 report from McKinsey & Company, for example, showed that all teacher recruits in Finland, Singapore, and South Korea – where teacher-preparation programs are more selective than their U.S. counterparts – came from the top one-third of high school graduates, based on GPA, national exams, and/or education school screening tests. In the United States, the same can be said for only about a quarter of new teachers.

Concerns about teacher-training programs—and of the students they attract—have long been a feature of the education landscape. Consider this statement from an article in the Journal of Educational Sociology in 1946:  “One of the weaknesses attributed to teachers colleges is the low caliber of their students.” Or this one, from the same journal five years later: “Was it not ‘common knowledge’ that teachers colleges overemphasized instructional methods while discounting the importance of mastery of subject matter?”    

Sixty years later, criticism of teacher preparation has not abated. In a high-profile 2005 report, former Teachers College President Arthur Levine called for sweeping changes, including making five years of university-level training the floor for novice teachers. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan declared in 2009 that “America’s university-based teacher-preparation programs need revolutionary change—not evolutionary tinkering.”

Attempts in recent decades to improve the caliber of teaching recruits and upgrade their preparation have included the Holmes Group, a consortium of leaders from 250 universities who vowed in 1986 to undertake reforms; the development of alternative routes to certification at the local, state, and national levels; and the creation of residency-style programs that give students extensive experience in schools similar to those in which they aspire to teach. In a move to ratchet up pressure on preparation programs, some states have begun to require schools of education to track the success of their graduates, spurred in part by federal incentives. Louisiana, North Carolina and Tennessee are among those that track graduates in attempt to make connections between teachers’ training and their classroom success.

Alternate Routes

Preparation programs not based at universities, meanwhile, have attracted admirers and detractors. The most famous alternative route to the classroom is Teach For America, which for the past 20 years has been recruiting strong students from highly selective universities to teach for two years in disadvantaged schools around the nation. Districts are partnering with TFA and other nonprofit organizations such as The New Teacher Project to bring high-achieving recruits into the profession. And in places like Boston, Chicago, and New York City, school districts and charter organizations themselves are helping train new teachers and the principals who lead them.

Amid all the debate over teacher policies, demographic changes are at work in the nation’s teaching corps. For better or worse, classroom teachers’ average years of experience has been falling in recent years. Younger teachers are posing fresh challenges to long-established tenets of collective-bargaining contracts, including job protections and benefits skewed in favor of veteran teachers. That shift is just one of many factors that will make the teacher-policy arena as especially eventful one to watch in the months and years to come.

Latest News

Much-Criticized Teacher Literacy Test Could Be On the Chopping Block Next Month

New York is poised to make it significantly easier to become a teacher — though their plans are on ice for a month.

The state’s education policymakers were set to vote on a major change to teacher certification requirements on Monday that would have walked back a controversial effort to make the teaching profession more selective. Winter weather won out, canceling the meeting.

The votes may happen in March but education department officials said it’s too early to have a finalized agenda. Here’s what we know.

Latest News

How the Complex History of Teacher Pay in Washington Slows Down Education Funding Solutions

To understand the landmark McCleary school-funding case, and a big reason why state lawmakers are struggling to reach a final settlement, you have to understand something called TRI pay.

TRI, which stands for additional time, responsibility and incentive, is a big chunk of local money originally intended to pay teachers for extras like serving as a high-school department chair or staying after school to tutor struggling students.

Latest News

Can Teachers Outsource Grading? Two Educators Explain What That Looks Like

Several years ago, two public schools in Michigan became teacher-powered—meaning, teachers have the autonomy to make decisions about what goes on with school operations. After that transition, one of the main areas the educators reevaluated was grading. 

Typically, teachers spend hours outside of school grading assignments. What would happen if that task was outsourced? 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Senate Confirms Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary

After a bruising confirmation process and a Senate vote on Tuesday largely divided along party lines, Republican mega-donor and school choice advocate Betsy DeVos is the new U.S. secretary of education.

In her first public communication as secretary, DeVos signaled that school choice would be a paramount concern:

Latest News

Decades After Civil Rights Gains, Black Teachers a Rarity in Public Schools

Nearly 63 years after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case kick-started racial integration in schools — and six decades after a group of African-American students had to be escorted by federal troops as they desegregated Little Rock’s Central High School — students nationwide are taught by an overwhelmingly white workforce. Even as the proportion of black, Latino, Asian, Indian, African and other “non-white” students grows inexorably, the teachers these children encounter are nearly all white. And the racial mismatch, in many places, is getting worse.

Latest News

Why Hawaii Struggles to Hold On to Teachers

No one knows why the job postings went viral. As in previous years, the Hawaii Department of Education (DOE) was simply trying to fill its vacant positions. Sure, there were 1,600 of them, but that wasn’t unheard of. The incentives it was offering, especially for special education teachers in Hawaii’s public schools, weren’t out of the ordinary, either.

Member Stories

January 19-26
Some of our favorite stories by EWA members this week

In a story about higher graduation rates for students in career and technical education programs, one source tells Natalie Pate of the Statesman Journal that while math or English may not be students’ favorite classes, “they are more willing to put in the time and do the work” because they can see the relationship between what they are learning and the projects they work on.

 

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Education Deans Share Ideas for Recruiting, Retaining Latino Teachers

Last summer, the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics convened a meeting of education deans from Hispanic-serving institutions across the country to brainstorm ideas for getting more Latinos into the teaching profession. The group recently released a white paper with their recommendations — among them a challenge to recognize and remove implicit bias in education.

Latest News

Trump’s Vision of Education Begins and Ends With Schools Being Bad

President Trump’s verdict on American schools in his inaugural address Friday was harsh: America, he said, has “an education system flush with cash but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge.” But the United States really does spend much more per student than most developed countries, only to see disappointing results in return — something plenty of presidents have pointed out.

Latest News

140 Nashville Schools Teachers Need to Renew Licenses, Audit Finds

An ongoing audit of Metro Nashville Public Schools discovered more than 140 educators who needed to renew teaching licenses, one of numerous issues raised in the review.

About 40 of those teachers are still working to renew their licenses, though they are not yet out of compliance.

The educators that don’t finish the process of renewing their licenses with the Tennessee Department of Education will be ineligible to work in the district.

Latest News

State’s Top Court Turns Down Voucher Case, a Win for School Choice Advocates

The Florida Supreme Court said Wednesday it would not take up the case challenging the state’s largest school voucher program, ending the teachers union’s three-year battle to have it declared unconstitutional. The Tax-Credit Scholarship Program provides private school tuition vouchers to low-income students. More than 97,000 Florida students are in it this school year, including more than 19,000 in Central Florida.

Latest News

Project Inspire Aims To Put Better Teachers In Schools With Poor, Minority Students

Six years ago, the Public Education Foundation, a local nonprofit organization, launched Project Inspire to train middle and high school math and science teachers by placing them in classrooms of highly effective teachers for a full school year. After the residency year, Project Inspire graduates are expected to spend at least four years teaching in one of Hamilton County’s struggling schools.

The project plans to rapidly grow — doubling the number of residents in the program next year, training 25 aspiring teachers. In 2018, it hopes to have 50 residents.

Member Stories

January 6 – January 12

More districts and states are enacting rules to monitor school water safety. “The action is an acknowledgment that the largely voluntary testing system present in most of the country isn’t sufficient,” writes Stacy Teicher Khadaroo for The Christian Science Monitor.

Eric Kelderman of The Chronicle of Higher Education with an important insight into the likely education secretary under Trump: “Ms. DeVos shows her belief in developing civil society through the contributions of individual citizens rather than government.”

Latest News

Their High School Test Scores Are Paying Off. ‘Best And Brightest’ Teachers in Manatee Rake In $7K.

The Florida Department of Education is rewarding 131 Manatee teachers with bonuses of $6,816 each this spring as recipients of the state’s Best and Brightest Scholarship Program. The controversial program will distribute roughly $49 million to 7,188 teachers who had high college-entrance SAT or ACT scores and were rated “highly effective” in their annual teacher evaluation.

Latest News

Teachers Unions Mount Campaign Against Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Education Pick

National teachers unions are mounting an aggressive campaign against Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for education secretary, arguing that she is an ideological extremist with a record of undermining the public schools her department would oversee. The National Education Association, the largest labor union in the nation, is mobilizing teachers to call and email their senators, urging a vote against DeVos’s confirmation.

Latest News

Teachers Are Stressed, And That Should Stress Us All

We all experience stress at work, no matter the job. But for teachers, the work seems to be getting harder and the stress harder to shake.

A new report out this month pulls together some stark numbers on this:

Forty-six percent of teachers say they feel high daily stress. That’s on par with nurses and physicians. And, roughly half of teachers agree with this statement: “The stress and disappointments involved in teaching at this school aren’t really worth it.”

It’s a problem for all of us — not just these unhappy teachers.

Report

To Attract Great Teachers, School Districts Must Improve Their Human Capital Systems
Center for American Progress

To succeed in today’s economy, organizations must capitalize on the skills, knowledge, abilities, and experience of their employees. Research shows that investments in human capital improve organizational performance—including team effectiveness, employee retention, and innovation—in both the private and public sectors. In other words, companies that attract and develop strong employees by prioritizing recruiting, investing in professional growth opportunities, and building positive workplace cultures tend to have greater efficiency and better outcomes.

Latest News

More Teachers’ Union Leaders Come Out Against New Student-Discipline Policies

Teachers in Fresno, California, and Des Moines, Iowa, have come out against their districts’ efforts to reform how students are disciplined. Teachers in Indianapolis and New York City registered similar complaints earlier this year. Teachers are arguing that efforts to change student-disciplinary practices—largely in an attempt to address big racial disparities in who gets suspended and expelled—are making their classrooms harder to manage.

Member Stories

December 15 – December 22
Some of our favorite stories by EWA members this week

This company trains schools how to respond to active shooter attacks, reports Dan Carsen for WBHM. Unlike other training, this group, which has partnered with 3,700 districts, encourages staff and students to fight back.

A heartwarming tale or a case study in picking favorites? Gabrielle Russon of the Orlando Sentinel examines the merits of a Florida university absorbing a bionics company and the worries other firms have about an unfair competitive environment.

Member Stories

December 8-15
Some of our favorite stories by EWA members this week

Annie Martin of the Orlando Sentinel investigates how Orange County school board members spent $500,000 of taxpayer money over the last two years. “One board member paid $2,500 for a school mural that depicts herself,” she writes.

 

Starting in January, Portland Community College will teach a specially designed curriculum for nursing students left stranded by the closure of the for-profit ITT Technical Institute earlier this year, Andrew Theen reports for The Oregonian.

Latest News

Elementary Teacher-Prep Programs Are Getting Better, According to Study

On Thursday, the National Council on Teacher Quality released its review of 875 traditional undergraduate programs preparing elementary teachers in 396 public and 479 private colleges and universities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The conclusion? Education schools still have work to do, but they are making needed improvements to the way they train teachers.

Latest News

Clovis Teacher Disciplined for Wearing Black Lives Matter Pin

David Roberts, a 75-year-old substitute teacher, went to work last month at Clovis West High wearing a Black Lives Matter button on his shirt pocket. A day later, he was told that he was no longer allowed to work at the school.

“They said it was a violation of their policy of being neutral regarding political issues, but I don’t consider it a political statement. It is a moral statement,” Roberts said. “I was very surprised because I didn’t think it was a violation of anything.”

Key Coverage

What Can this Tiny Island Show Texas About Finding Great Teachers? A Lot, Actually

This Asian island roughly the size of Austin has dominated international rankings in education, with students regularly outperforming their peers in math, science and literacy.

Singapore officials say the key to that success was simple: Hire only the best teachers.

“Teaching is akin to nation building. It’s about survival,” said Ee Ling Low, a professor to aspiring teachers at the country’s National Institute of Education.

Latest News

Xavier Partners With Charter Schools in Bid to Diversify New Orleans’ Teaching Force

Xavier University has joined forces with a nonprofit group at the forefront of the New Orleans charter school movement to create a first-of-its-kind “residency” program intended to diversify the city’s public school teaching force. The program will primarily recruit Xavier University seniors and recent graduates, many of whom have ties to the community. It is the first such partnership in the country between charter schools and a historically black college or university. 

Latest News

Las Vegas District Hires Uncertified Teachers Amid Shortage

Working long hours, (Anthony) Boccia—known at Valley High as Mr. Tony—is learning how to run his classroom via trial and error, one day at a time. At this point, his teaching methods may be more grounded in instinct than formal training: Boccia is not a fully licensed teacher—not yet at least. While he previously subbed in several classrooms in Las Vegas’s Clark County School District to make ends meet while working toward his Ph.D. in business, the only formal preparation he’s had to become a teacher was a semiweekly fast-track training program last summer.

Report

Time for Action Building the Educator Workforce Our Children Need Now
Center on Great Teachers and Leaders

States are now deeply engaged in developing plans for their federal education spending for the next several years. Decades of experience and education research indicate that states must strengthen and organize the educator workforce to implement change successfully. Now is the time to rethink systems and strategies and to focus funds and efforts on what matters most for learning: great teachers and leaders for every student and school. 

Report

Teacher Effectiveness in the Every Student Succeeds Act: A Discussion Guide
Center on Great Teachers and Leaders

Systemic challenges in the educator workforce require thoughtful and bold actions, and ESSA presents a unique opportunity for states to reaffirm, modify, or improve their vision of educator effectiveness. This GTL Center discussion guide focuses on one challenge that states face as part of this work: defining ineffective teacher in the absence of highly qualified teacher (HQT) requirements.

Member Stories

October 20-October 27
Some of our favorite stories by EWA members this week

In Texas school districts, it’s often the men who are calling the shots. Shelby Webb of The Houston Chronicle explores why it’s the case that in a state where three out of four teachers are women, only one of five superintendents are female. Click here to bypass the story’s paywall.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

As Feds Turn Focus on English-Language Learners, Teachers Struggle to Find Quality Materials

Craig Brock teaches high school science in Amarillo, Texas, where his freshman biology students are currently learning about the parts of a cell. But since many of them are refugee children who have only recently arrived in the U.S. and speak little or no English, Brock often has to get creative.

Usually that means creating PowerPoint presentations full of pictures and “just kind of pulling from here and there,” he said — the Internet, a third grade textbook or a preschool homeschool curriculum from Sam’s Club, for example.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

With More Freedom, Will States Raise Bar for ‘Effective’ Teaching?

When schools consultant Tequilla Banks considers how best to ensure America’s low-income and minority students have access to effective teaching, her personal history is a helpful guide. Growing up in Arkansas, Banks witnessed first-hand how educational accountability can work – or not work, as the case may be — when state governments call the shots.

What she saw left her thankful for federal government intervention.

Member Stories

September 15-22
What we're reading by EWA members this week

In an article for Harper’s Magazine, “Held Back: Battling for the Fate of a School District,” Alexandria Neason digs into the financial and racial turmoil facing Detroit’s public schools.

 

As the University of West Florida seeks a new president, students want to know whether their next leader will support the Black Lives Matter movement, Jessica Bakeman writes for Politico.

 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

How Are Schools Teaching 9/11?

During a Sept. 11 memorial, the night sky is illuminated over the footprint where the World Trade Center's TWin Towers once stood. (Flickr/Jackie)

In 2007, while writing about military recruiting at high schools, I met a fresh-faced JROTC cadet who planned to enlist after graduation. His older brother was already serving in Afghanistan as part of the U.S. response to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The student, who was a seventh grader when the hijacked airplanes struck, eventually joined the Army and followed his brother to war.

Member Stories

August 25-September 1
Highlighting some of our favorite stories by EWA members this week

A tribal school in Puyallup, Washington, is no longer accepting students who are not registered with a Native American tribe, meaning many children who intended to return to the K-12 campus this school year will have to seek an education elsewhere, Debbie Cafazzo of The News Tribune reports.

 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Back-to-School: You Need Stories, We’ve Got Ideas

Back-to-School: You Need Stories, We’ve Got Ideas

The boys (and girls) are back in town. For class, that is.

See how forced that lede was? Back-to-school reporting can take on a similar tinge of predictability, with journalists wondering how an occasion as locked in as the changing of the seasons can be written about with the freshness of spring.

Recently some of the beat’s heavy hitters dished with EWA’s Emily Richmond about ways newsrooms can take advantage of the first week of school to tell important stories and cover overlooked issues.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Where Are the Latino Teachers?

Source: Flickr/ Mundial Perspectives (CC BY 2.0)

When Edgar Ríos was one of 126 students in the first class of a new charter school in Chicago in 1999, almost all of his teachers were white.

They were good teachers, he says. His favorite, though, was a teacher “who could speak Spanish with my mother and father, so I didn’t have to translate.”

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Boston Charter Aims to Innovate, Extend Reach

English teacher Caroline Bartlett began her work with Match Public Charter School as a tutor, and was hired out of the organization's training corps. (Photo credit: Match Public Charter School)

In early May at Match Public Charter School in Boston, 18 freshmen are preparing to discuss themes from “Lord of the Flies.” Their English teacher is Ashley Davis, a 26-year-old native of Cincinnati who’s in her second year of teaching, but acts like a veteran.

Davis will soon have her students explaining the biblical allusions in the 1954 novel and debating whether mankind is naturally good or evil.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Common Core Math: A Glimpse in the Classroom

The fourth grade students sit on a carpet, wriggling, shaking their hands, looking in all directions as a teacher uses the most basic of tools — a red sharpie and a big white pad — to deliver her lesson.

The day’s agenda: teaching the Common Core standard of finding “whole number quotients.” She writes an equation on the board, and the answer works out to be 100. But she’s not done.

Key Coverage

Teaching The Teachers

TO THE 11- and 12-year-olds in his maths class, Jimmy Cavanagh seems like a born teacher. He is warm but firm. His voice is strong. Correct answers make him smile. And yet it is not his pep that explains why his pupils at North Star Academy in Newark, New Jersey, can expect to go to university, despite 80% of their families needing help to pay for school meals.

Report

Examining the Validity of Ratings from a Classroom Observation Instrument for Use in a District’s Teacher Evaluation System
WestEd

This validation study examined principals’ evaluation ratings of teachers made on an instrument adapted from the Danielson Framework for Teaching and used in the Washoe County School District in Reno, Nevada in 2012/13. Principals used a four-point rating scale to rate teachers on 22 teaching components. The teaching components were expected to measure four different dimensions of teaching.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Investigative Reporting: Tracking Teacher Misconduct

Flickr/Donna Sullivan Thomson

National record-keeping on teacher misconduct is inconsistent and incomplete, allowing those accused of malpractice to move into teaching jobs in other school districts that are unaware of the charges. Even some convictions may slip through the cracks.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Getting High-Quality Teachers to Disadvantaged Students

Teacher Lisa Jones leads a lesson at Watkins Elementary School in Washington D.C. (Flickr/U.S. Department of Education)

How do you get the best teachers in front of the students who need them the most? It’s an issue getting increased attention, but a tough problem to solve.

An Obama administration official said he’s encouraged by state plans developed to “ensure equitable access to excellent educators,” as required in 2014 by the U.S. Department of Education.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Experts Say Teachers Are Being Taught Bad Science

Source: Nora Newcombe's presentation at EWA's National Seminar in Boston

Here’s a quick quiz. Rate the following statements on a scale from one to five, with one meaning you totally disagree and five meaning you wholeheartedly agree:

  • Beginners and experts essentially think in the same way.

  • Most people are either left-brained or right-brained.

  • Students learn more when information is tailored to their unique learning styles.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Missing Class: Using Data to Track Chronic Absenteeism

Fickr/dcJohn (CC BY 2.0)

For every savant who’s skilled enough to ditch class and still ace the course, many more who miss school fall way behind, increasing their odds of dropping out or performing poorly.

The implications are major: If a school has a high number of students repeatedly absent, there’s a good chance other troubles are afoot. Feeling uninspired in the classroom, poor family outreach, or struggles at students’ homes are just some of the root causes of absenteeism, experts say.

EWA Radio

Raising the Bar for Teacher Certification 
EWA Radio: Episode 71

(Flickr/Don Voaklander)

How fair are controversial new tests being used by some states to certify teachers? Who are the prospective classroom educators struggling the most with the often costly, time-consuming process? And how might this impact efforts to diversify nation’s predominantly white, female, teacher workforce?

Writer Peggy Barmore of The Hechinger Report discusses these issues with EWA public editor Emily Richmond.

Report

Listen to Us: Teacher Views and Voices

In the winter of 2015, the Center on Education Policy surveyed a nationally representative sample of public school teachers to learn their views on the teaching profession, state standards and assessments, testing, and teacher evaluations. 

The report, Listen to Us: Teacher Views and Voices, summarizes these survey findings, including responses indicating that public school teachers are concerned and frustrated with shifting policies, over emphasis on student testing, and their lack of voice in decision-making. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Angela Duckworth: Raising Test Scores Is Not a Sign of Grit

In the dozen years that Angela Duckworth has researched the concept of grit, she’s found new ways to test its validity, identified examples of it in popular culture, and worked to bust myths about its application in schools. But she hasn’t developed a just-add-water curriculum package that interested schools can use to develop the character trait in their students.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Behind the Pulitzer Prize-Winning Failure Factories Series

Kindergartner Tyree Parker sits at the front doors of Maximo Elementary as he waits for school to open. (Tampa Bay Times/Dirk Shadd)

Cara Fitzpatrick was in labor when her husband – and colleague at the Tampa Bay Times – asked her “So what can you tell me about segregation in Pinellas County?”

The paper had just decided to do a large-scale investigation into the district’s schools that were serving predominately low-income, black students. Two years later, Fitzpatrick’s son is walking and talking and she and the rest of the team have earned a Pulitzer Prize for their series Failure Factories.  

EWA Radio

Inside Tampa Bay Times’ Pulitzer Prize-Winning ‘Failure Factories’
EWA Radio: Episode 70

Kindergartner Tyree Parker sits at the front doors of Maximo Elementary as he waits for school to open. (Tampa Bay Times/Dirk Shadd)

Update: On May 2, “Failure Factories” won the $10,000 Hechinger Grand Prize in the EWA National Awards for Education Reporting.

The Pulitzer Prize for local reporting this year went to the Tampa Bay Times for an exhaustive investigation into how a handful of elementary schools in Pinellas County wound up deeply segregated by race, poverty, and opportunity.

Key Coverage

Bad Apples: Who is Teaching Mississippi’s Kids?

A principal served four years and two months in prison for attempted murder. Another pleaded guilty to embezzling $73,033 in electronics from his school. One teacher struck a student, and several others were accused of misconduct involving students.

 All of these individuals surrendered or lost their teaching license, and each of them was later reinstated by Mississippi’s commission responsible for disciplining educators.

Key Coverage

The Promise of Teacher-Residency Programs

In her large, bright, pre-K classroom, the teacher turned to the group of 4-year-olds learning how to give a baby a bath. She sat on the carpet and cradled a doll carefully as eager students strained their necks to watch.

“How am I holding the baby?” the teacher, Alina Kaye, asked, and then answered her own question: “Nice and calm.” She held up a small, empty plastic bottle and mimed squirting shampoo onto the baby’s head. The kids edged closer.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

‘Lives in Limbo’: Supporting Undocumented Students

Yehimi Cambron, middle, shares her immigration story at the Center for American Progress event, "Harnessing the Talent of DACA and Unauthorized Students at the K-12 Level." She was joined by, from left, Richard Loeschner of Brentwood High School in New York, Frances Esparza of Boston Public Schools, Roberto Gonzales of Harvard University, and moderator Scott Sargrad of CAP. Photo by Natalie Gross/ EWA

When Yehimi Cambron crossed the U.S. border from Mexico with her parents, they told her she would not have documented legal status in this country. But as a third-grader, she had no concept of how that would affect her.

It wasn’t until she was 15 and denied a $50 prize in an art competition because she didn’t have a Social Security number that she grasped its meaning.

EWA Radio

Why President Obama Should Teach
EWA Radio: Episode 65

(Flickr/The White House)

When President Obama leaves office in January, there will be no shortage of big-name corporations and Ivy League universities clamoring for his skills. But in a recent essay for The New Yorker Magazine, contributor Cinque Henderson — a former writer for Aaron Sorkin’s “The Newsroom” — suggests President Obama consider teaching at a historically black college or university (HBCU), community college, or even an urban high school.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

A Global Lens on Teacher Quality

A classroom at the Turku University Teacher Training School in Littoinen, Finland. The country sets a high bar for entrance into the teaching profession. (Jari Sjölund/Flickr via Creative Commons)

High-achieving countries share some common practices when it comes to the recruitment, training and development of public-school teachers, according to experts at a recent Education Writers Association event.

A few years ago in Singapore, teachers in a high school English department posed a question: Would having students conduct live debates on an issue before they wrote persuasive essays about it result in more highly developed final papers?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Teach For America Turns 25

Teach For America teacher and Penn State graduate Sergio Santiago reads a book to his students at a Washington, D.C. elementary school. (Flickr/PennState)

In the past quarter-century, Wendy Kopp’s idea for putting new college graduates to work in high-need public schools has grown from her undergraduate thesis project at Princeton into a $300 million organization responsible for recruiting, training, and supporting thousands of new teachers every year. Along the way, Teach For America has generated criticism even as it’s become a mainstay in many of the nation’s larger school districts. 

Key Coverage

Growth Mindset Means More Than Just Praising Kids for Trying

The approach has been misinterpreted by some to mean simply praising effort.

But that’s misunderstanding the thinking behind a growth mindset, Dweck said. Telling students, “Keep trying; you can do it,” doesn’t work, she said. Teachers instead should ask students these questions: “What strategies have you tried? What will you try next?” “It’s not just effort,” Dweck said. “You need strategies.”

Report

Ensuring High-Quality Teacher Talent
Education First

As districts face the recurring problem of ensuring every student has access to a high-quality teacher, a growing number have begun to proactively form deep, mutually beneficial partnerships with teacher preparation programs to produce teacher candidates who match their specific needs. These partnerships, when done well, take significant time and resources on behalf of both parties, but have the ability to transform the work of both institutions.

Report

Half the People Working in Schools Aren’t Classroom Teachers—So What?

When we think of elementary and secondary schools, many of us picture students in classrooms taught by lone teachers, overseen by a principal. In reality, many adults work in schools other than teachers and principals. It may be surprising to learn that there are as many non-teaching adults as there are teachers in U.S. public schools. These adults play roles from supporting students with special needs to coaching teachers to community outreach to maintaining facilities.

Key Coverage

A Special Report on Student-Data Privacy

Intelligent and creative use of data in K-12 education is a driving force behind efforts to use digital curricula and assessments to personalize learning. Data use can be the difference maker in understanding individual students’ strengths and weaknesses. But the expanded, more sophisticated use of data has opened the doors wider for potential problems, especially regarding the privacy of student information.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Shopping for Holiday Stories? Hit the Mall

The mall can be a goldmine of story ideas - and sources - for education reporters during the holiday weeks when schools are closed. (Flickr/AmandaB3

With most schools closed until after the New Year, the holidays can be a dry spell on the education beat. But there’s no shortage of ideas for creative reporters who are willing to venture into less-familiar territory.

Organization

Teach Plus

Since 2009, Teach Plus has worked to recruit and prepare teachers to take on teacher-leadership roles in their schools, districts, and states.

EWA Radio

TGI Thursday! Idaho’s Four-Day Schools
EWA Radio: Episode 51

Faced with massive budget cuts in the wake of the recession, many Idaho school districts switched to a four-day weekly calendar. But more than seven years into the experiment, an investigation by Idaho Education News – lead by reporter Kevin Richert — found little evidence that the schedule change improved either student achievement or the fiscal outlook of cash-strapped districts.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Growing Minds, Changing Math Classes

Jo Boaler speakers to reporters during EWA's seminar on motivation held at Stanford University in November (Credit: Stanford University/Marc Franklin)

As the tune of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” plays out over the music video, the lyrics are a bit different:

“We will make mistakes…our method’s gonna break…not a piece of cake…we’re gonna shake it off, shake it off…”

It was in this video Stanford University Professor and author Jo Boaler says she was compelled to do something she didn’t want to do. “They made me rap,” she said. When her undergraduate students challenged whether she had a growth mindset about her rhyme skills, Boaler said to herself, “Oh my gosh. I’m gonna have to rap.”

Key Coverage

Teaching Kids: Henry County School Lets Students Set Own Pace

The school’s computer-based approach could be replicated across the state if education reformers appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal get their way. There’s no conclusive evidence that it works better than traditional methods, but there is a growing group of proponents in other states. Many wonder whether it will prove too expensive, widening the gap between schools that can and cannot afford it, but advocates say it doesn’t have to be costly.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Have Warnings of Teacher ‘Shortages’ Been Exaggerated?

A Missouri school district facing a teacher shortage posted advertisements in neighboring Kansas. (Photo credit: KTNV.com)

Predicting teacher “shortages,” evidently, is much like forecasting the apocalypse. It’s best to go into the enterprise with a flexible time frame.

“There was always a ‘shortage’ of 2 million teachers, and it loomed a year or two ahead. It seemed to keep getting pushed further and further back,” said Steve Drummond, the senior education editor at NPR News, who has heard diagnoses of a shortage since the 1990s.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Forging New Paths to Teaching

Alternative routes to teacher certification have grown rapidly over the last three decades, with more programs popping up all over the country. At EWA’s recent seminar in Chicago, three leaders in the field of teacher preparation discussed the implications this widening path will have on traditional teachers’ colleges and what lessons they might glean from their newer counterparts.

Report

State Capacity to Support School Turnaround
Institute of Education Sciences National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance

More than 80 percent of states made turning around low-performing schools a high priority, but at least 50 percent found it very difficult to turn around low-performing schools. 38 states (76 percent) reported significant gaps in expertise for supporting school turnaround in 2012, and that number increased to 40 (80 percent) in 2013.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Education Post Poll: Parents Want Testing to Help Students

Public school parents generally support standardized testing but think there’s too much of it, according to a new from Education Post, a nonprofit communications firm led by former Obama administration education official Peter Cunningham. 

When asked how the test results should  be used, 65 percent of the responding parents said helping students should be the top priority. Only 21 percent wanted test results to be a tool for identifying ineffective teachers. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Fewer Black Teachers Spotlights ‘Diversity Gap’

Emily Banks from the U.S. Department of Education shadows teacher Lisa Jones at Watkins Elementary School in Washington D.C. for a 2014 event. The district is one of nine U.S. cities which experienced a sharp decline in African-American teachers between 2002 and 2012. (Flickr/U.S. Department of Education)

Nationally, the number of minority teachers is increasing, but it’s not keeping pace with student demographics, concludes a new report issued by a union-affiliated think tank. The gap in parity between minority teachers and minority students remains wide. And that’s particularly true for African-American kids in nine large urban districts, according to the researchers’ findings.

Key Coverage

Teachers Wanted: Passion A Must, Patience Required, Pay Negligible

Across the country, an improving economy has pulled teachers and potential teachers away from the profession, creating a growing national shortage. In California, where the number of teacher credentials issued declined 26 percent from the 2009-10 academic year to 2013-14, competition for qualified teachers is particularly stiff.  Enrollment in teacher preparation programs here is down even more according to the same report: 55 percent just from 2009 to 2013.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Teacher, Student Voices in Back-to-School Spotlight

It’s easy to get cynical about back-to-school stories – especially when you’ve been an education reporter for many years. But it’s important to remember that for many children and their families – one of the prime audiences for such reporting – this might be the first time they’ve gone through the experience.

Seminar

69th EWA National Seminar

The Education Writers Association, the national professional organization for journalists who cover education, is thrilled to announce that its annual conference will take place from Sunday, May 1, through Tuesday, May 3, 2016, in the historic city of Boston.

Co-hosted by Boston University’s College of Communication and School of Education, EWA’s 69th National Seminar will examine a wide array of timely topics in education — from early childhood through career — while expanding and sharpening participants’ skills in reporting and storytelling.

Boston, Massachusetts
Key Coverage

Teaching Teachers

Research shows good teaching makes a big difference in how much kids learn. But the United States lacks an effective system for training new teachers or helping them get better once they’re on the job. This documentary examines why, and asks what it would take to improve American teaching on a wide scale. We meet researchers who are trying to understand what makes teaching complex, and how to determine whether someone is ready to be a teacher. We also visit U.S. schools that are taking a page from Japan and radically rethinking the way they approach the idea of teacher improvement.

Report

The Alarming Effect Of Racial Mismatch On Teacher Expectations

Researchers find evidence of systematic biases in teachers’ expectations for the educational attainment of black students. Specifically, non-black teachers have significantly lower educational expectations for black students than black teachers do when evaluating the same students. We cannot determine whether the black teachers are too optimistic, the non-black teachers are too pessimistic, or some combination of the two.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Miami Schools Look to Improve Spanish Instruction

Source: Flickr/ Enokson (CC BY 2.0)

Imagine taking an English class with a teacher who struggles with writing and grammar. 

That’s the type of instruction many students in Miami-Dade County Public Schools were getting in Spanish class, where teachers with Hispanic last names who spoke Spanish well enough to get by were being thrust into a role they weren’t trained for, according to recent articles by Christina Veiga of the Miami Herald. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Back-to-School: Story Ideas That Shine

Flickr/OddHarmonic

While it may seem that every back-to-school story has been written, the well is far from dry. Are you following the blogs teachers in your district write? Have you amassed the data sets you’ll need to write that deep dive explaining why so many local high school graduates land in remedial classes when they first enter college?

No? It’s OK. You’re not alone.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Grit? Motivation? Report Takes Stab at Defining Terms

Source: Flickr/U.S. Department of Education (CC BY 2.0)

Education writing is famous for its alphabet soup of acronyms and obscure terms, but it could just as well be faulted for trafficking buzzwords in search of clear definitions.

Ideas like grit, motivation, fitting in and learning from one’s mistakes, often summarized as noncognitive factors, are just some of the concepts floated more frequently these days. A new paper released this week seeks to provide clarity to this fast-growing discipline within the world of how students learn.

Report

Rethinking Teacher Preparation: Empowering Local Schools to Solve California’s Teacher Shortage and Better Develop Teachers
Bellwether Education Partners

After years of cuts to the teaching workforce, California districts are beginning to hire again. This positive change is offset, however, by the fact that teacher preparation programs are producing fewer graduates than the state’s schools and districts want to hire. As a growing number of districts face teacher shortages, or the prospect of them, California needs new strategies to improve both the supply and the quality of new teachers prepared in the state.

Report

Teacher Preparation Programs: Education Should Ensure States Identify Low-Performing Programs and Improve Information Sharing
United States Government Accountability Office

Among other things, GAO recommends that the Department of Education monitor states to ensure their compliance with requirements to assess whether any teacher preparation programs are low-performing and develop mechanisms to share information about TPP quality within the agency and with states.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Beyond NCLB: New Era in Federal Education Policy?

Screenshot of a tweet by @KristenRencher

Fifty years ago, the federal government enacted the landmark Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s war on poverty. The newest version of the ESEA, the No Child Left Behind Act, became law 13 years ago and has stayed in place ever since. On Thursday, a new version of the federal government’s most far-reaching K-12 education law moved closer to adoption. The U.S. Senate passed the Every Child Achieves Act, one week after the U.S. House of Representatives passed its own version, the Student Success Act.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Beyond the Rising Costs of Teacher Pensions

(Flickr/Christa Lohman)

Reporters are sometimes afraid of numbers. But when it comes to pensions, this can be a problem. It means that they often write an incomplete story,  giving voices to politicians who decry the size of teacher pensions. Or they’ll ignore pension stories entirely.

So it’s no surprise that the public often comes to erroneous conclusions—that teacher greed is the problem.

Multimedia

Falloff in Aspiring Teachers: Where and Why?
2015 EWA National Seminar

Falloff in Aspiring Teachers: Where and Why?

A data analysis by Education Week showed a decline in applicants to education schools in key states and Ed Week’s Stephen Sawchuk walks participants through it. ACT’s Steve Kappler unveils a disturbing new report on a dropoff in high school graduates aspiring to teach. Other speakers review the implications of their findings and sources.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

What Happens When Young People Don’t Want to Be Teachers?

A new teacher in a Denver, Colo. classroom. With fewer young people pursuing teaching careers, the Mile High City is one of a growing number of communities using residency programs to recruit and support new teachers. (Urban Teacher Residency United)

Why would young people today want to become teachers? Or perhaps more importantly, why wouldn’t they?

We all recognize teaching as an opportunity to change lives and remember the teachers who made a difference for us. But weigh that intrinsic satisfaction against low wages, little public respect and an ever-growing workload, and the minuses often win out. And now that a rebounding economy offers more professional options, our country faces a serious challenge to educating the next generation.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Student and Teacher Voices on Student-Centered Learning

From left: Stephanie Hernandez, Lesley Perez, Joshua Botterman and Jennifer Hayes at EWA's National Seminar in Chicago, April 21, 2015. (EWA/Emily Richmond)

If teachers and principals want students on center stage in their classrooms, they’ll first have to do a lot of work backstage. However, as a panel of teachers and students told attendees at EWA’s recent National Seminar in Chicago, the return on investment can be substantial.

When Revere High School, outside Boston, began moving to a more student-centered approach, the educators didn’t expect an overnight miracle.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Students, Teachers Thrive at U. of Chicago Charter School

Kindergarteners at the NKO campus of the UChicago Charter during a visit by EWA members in April 2015. (Beth Hawkins for EWA)

What’s most notable about the Chicago kindergarten class where assistant teacher Nichelle Bell is temporarily in charge is what is not happening. Teachers are not redirecting pupils, who are not off-task. Hands are not in other people’s spaces. Voices—those of children and adults—are not raised.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Report: Intensive Support for New Teachers Pays Off

A teacher in one of the Denver, Colo. schools  partnering with Urban Teacher Residencies United (UTRU) to provide intensive support to early career educators. (Photo credit: UTRU)

With an eye toward reducing turnover and improving student learning, districts nationwide are experimenting with “teacher residencies.” These programs, which provide intensive support to new teachers during the early years of their careers, are typically partnerships between schools of education and local districts. The idea is to better align the training with the on-the-job expectations.

Story Lab

Story Lab: Making Federal Data a Gold Mine for Your Reporting

Need a state or national statistic? There’s likely a federal data set for that. From fairly intuitive and interactive widgets to dense spreadsheets — and hundreds of data summaries in between — the U.S. Department of Education’s various research programs are a gold mine for reporters on the hunt for facts and figures.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Students, Teachers Don’t Study The Way Science Says They Should

Henry Roediger listens as Bror Saxberg answers a reporter's question at EWA's 68th National Seminar in Chicago. (Photo credit: Mikhail Zinshteyn/EWA)

Most students don’t study using methods backed by scientific research, panelists at the Education Writers Association’s deep dive on the science of learning told reporters in Chicago at the association’s 68th National Seminar.

“Why do people find learning so hard?” asked Henry Roediger, a psychology professor at Washington University in St. Louis, who participated in the April event.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

New Teachers Keep Teaching, Contrary to Conventional Wisdom

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan meets with teachers in Los Angeles on October 21, 2014. Photo credit: Flickr/U.S. Dept. of Education

Despite previous reports that new teachers are ditching their professions in record numbers, new federal data suggest that a grand majority of novice classroom instructors are showing up for work year after year.

Eighty-three percent of rookie teachers in 2007 continued to educate public school students half a decade later, according to the 2007–08 Beginning Teacher Longitudinal Study. Ten percent of teachers left the field after just one year.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Educators: Common Core Standards ‘Are the Floor’

From left: Educators Luann Tallman, Mark Sass, Merlinda Moldanado and Kristy Straley talk with moderator Liana Heiten of Education Week at the University of Colorado Boulder on February 26, 2015. (EWA/Emily Richmond)

For teacher Merlinda Maldonado’s sixth graders at Hill Middle School in Denver, it’s not necessarily about getting the answer right. It’s not about memorizing procedures, either. If Maldonado’s classroom is clicking, frustration can be a good thing.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Gov. Rauner: Put Money in Classrooms, Not Bureaucracy

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks with attendees at the kickoff of EWA's 68th National Seminar in Chicago on April 20, 2015. (Stephanie Banchero)

In a wide-ranging speech on educational opportunity, teacher quality, school funding and accountability delivered at the kickoff of the Education Writers Association’s 68th National Seminar, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner shared with reporters his vision for the future of education in the Prairie State.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Report: Teacher Pension Debt Is Swamping States

The National Council on Teacher Quality has a new report out looking at teacher pension funds, which the advocacy group contends amount to a massive, underfunded liability for states. 

Teacher pension debt now stands at nearly a half-trillion dollars, up about $1 billion from two years ago. (You can read my take on NCTQ’s 2012 report here.)

Among the takeaways from this year’s report:

Report

Despite Reports to the Contrary, New Teachers Are Staying in Their Jobs Longer
Center for American Progress

Not only do our analyses show that since 2007, new teachers have been staying in the classroom at dramatically higher rates than is commonly understood, but they also show that teachers in high-poverty schools—defined here as those with more than 80 percent of students eligible for federally subsidized lunches—are staying at statistically similar rates as all beginning teachers. Teachers find high-poverty schools to be among the most challenging work environments, and they are somewhat more likely to leave teaching after working in a high-poverty school than in a lower-poverty school.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

From the Beat: Memorable Education Stories of 2014

Cadets celebrate graduation at West Point. A USA Today investigation of  congressional influence over the nomination process at elite military academies was one of the year's most memorable education stories. Flickr/U.S. Army (Creative Commons)

When you write a blog, the end of the year seems to require looking back and looking ahead. Today I’m going to tackle the former with a sampling of some of the year’s top stories from the K-12 and higher education beats. I’ll save the latter for early next week when the final sluggish clouds of 2014 have been swept away, and a bright new sky awaits us in 2015. (Yes, I’m an optimist.)

Blog: The Educated Reporter

From the Beat: Story Ideas For the Holiday Week

A cashier bags items in Gladstone, Missouri. It's not unusual for teachers to take part-time jobs like these to boost their retirement savings. (Creative Commons/Walmart)

For education beat reporters looking for story ideas next week, I wanted to offer a couple of suggestions.

First up: Do teachers in your district take on second jobs over the holidays to make ends meet, or to boost their Social Security retirement contributions?

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Webinar Wednesday: Are Teachers Making Use of Student Data?

As tools and data profiles of students become easier to use, are teachers sufficiently data literate to make sense of the information at their fingertips? Do teachers have the skills and access to data in useful formats, and are the school leaders and institutions responsible for their professional development providing them the training they need?

Report

Smart Money
What teachers make, how long it takes and what it buys them

What teachers are paid matters. Many factors play a role in making the decision to become a teacher, but for many people compensation heavily influences the decision not only to enter the profession but also whether to stay in it and when to leave. For teachers, knowing where salaries start and end isn’t enough; they must also understand the path they will take from starting salary to the top of the scale.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Letting Teachers Lead Without Leaving the Classroom

By his third year of teaching, Jonas Chartock was overwhelmed, acting as a department head and taking on a variety of other roles at his school in addition to his regular duties at the front of the classroom.

“What I could tell you is I wasn’t being trained to do any of them,” Chartock said.

Those experiences helped drive Chartock’s decision to leave the classroom and to pursue a career in education leadership outside the school.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Impact Academy: Rethinking Student Assessment

Sophie Wellington at Impact Academy, Nov. 19, 2014. (EWA/Lori Crouch)

On a recent Wednesday morning, 11th-grader Sophia Wellington took to the undersized stage at the front of her high school gym and with seamless poise demonstrated what smarter student assessment could look like.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

White House Proposes Tougher Accountability Standards for Teacher Colleges

EWA seminar panel on teacher college accountability, Oct. 21, 2014, Detroit. From left: Stephen Sawchuk, Education Week; Jim Cibulka, CAEP; Segun Eubanks, NEA; Kate Walsh, NCTQ. (NEA Media)

In 2011, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan called it “laughable” that in the prior decade the majority of states had failed to rate even one teaching preparation program as inferior. On Tuesday, the White House released draft accountability regulations that are no joke for the nation’s teacher colleges, and could result in a loss of federal funding if their graduates fail to do well on the job.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Talking To Teachers: Story Ideas For Reporters

For education reporters looking for story ideas, talking to teachers is a smart place to start. That was the key takeaway from the “Performance and Perceptions: Taking the Pulse of the Profession” session at EWA’s recent seminar on the teaching profession, held last month in Detroit.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Using Teacher Data to Drive Education Reporting

Tom Nehil and Beth Hawkins of the MinnPost speak with EWA members in Detroit on Oct. 21, 2014. (EWA/Emily Richmond)

In the Minneapolis Public Schools, nearly two-thirds of the district’s enrollment are students of color. Additionally, 65 percent of the district’s more than 35,000 students qualify for free and reduced-price meals. Beth Hawkins, a reporter for the MinnPost, had a hunch that the best-paid local teachers were working in the wealthiest schools, teaching white students. But this was just a guess, and her colleague at the nonprofit news site, data editor Tom Nehil, wanted to see the numbers. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

What It Takes to Build Great Teachers

Author Elizabeth Green speaks to EWA members in Detroit on Oct. 21, 2014. (Emily Richmond/EWA)

If 49 multiplied by 5 is 245, why would a student think the answer is 405? And who is more likely to know this – a mathematician or an elementary math teacher?

Elizabeth Green, the author of “Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works (And How to Teach It to Everyone), posed this question to a roomful of education reporters at EWA’s October seminar in Detroit.  

Blog: The Educated Reporter

‘The Teacher Wars’: Everything Old Is New Again

Dana Goldstein speaks with Greg Toppo in Detroit on Oct. 20, 2014. (Michael Marriott/EWA)

Education might seem more incendiary and political than ever before, but author Dana Goldstein argues that today’s biggest policy fights aren’t exactly new battles.

“We’ve been fighting about teachers for 175 years,” said Goldstein at EWA’s October seminar on teaching, held in Detroit. At the event, Goldstein discussed her new book, The Teacher Wars, published in September.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Education and the Election: What Happened and What It Means

Source: Flickr/Ginny (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The midterm election results have big implications for education, from Republicans’ success in retaking the U.S. Senate to new governors coming in and a slew of education ballot measures, most of which were defeated.

The widely watched race for California’s schools superintendent came down to the wire, with incumbent Tom Torlakson edging out challenger Marshall Tuck — a former charter schools administrator: 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Are Students Learning Lessons of Midterm Elections?

Today is a day off from school for millions of students as campuses in some districts and states — including Michigan and New York — are converted into polling stations for the midterm elections. To Peter Levine, the director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, that’s a missed opportunity to demonstrate democracy in action.

EWA Radio

Principal Turnover: What’s Happening in Denver?
EWA Radio, Episode 13

Why are so many principals in Denver leaving their jobs? And what is the local school district doing to try and stem the churn? EWA Radio speaks with Katharine Schimel of Chalkbeat Colorado about her story looking into the high rate of principal turnover, and what it means for student learning and campus climate in the Mile High City.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Teaching Math: More Than Mastering the Numbers

Dean Deborah Loewenberg Ball, University of Michigan School of Education, speaks to EWA members in Detroit on Oct. 21, 2014. (Emily Richmond)

Deborah Loewenberg Ball began her career as an elementary school teacher, working for 15 years with a diverse population of students. But math stumped her.

“That troubled me,” Ball said Oct. 21 during her keynote presentation at the EWA seminar on teaching held in Detroit. “I would work really hard on how could I make the math make sense to the students, … but on Fridays they would know how to do things and on Monday they would have forgotten.”

Report

U.S. Teachers Offer Split Decision on Common Core

In a new Gallup survey of teachers, U.S. public school teachers are closely split in their overall reaction to the Common Core State Standards: 41% view the program positively and 44% negatively. Even in terms of strong reactions, teachers’ attitudes are divided, with 15% saying their perceptions of the initiative are “very positive” and 16% saying “very negative.”

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Raising the Bar For Teacher Colleges

Left to right: Stephen Sawchuk, Education Week; Jim Cibulka, CAEP; Segun Eubanks, NEA; Kate Walsh, NCTQ at the Detroit Center, Oct. 21, 2014. (Source: NEA Media)

As the nation centers its attention on the Common Core State Standards battle brewing across the states, a lesser known overhaul is underway for America’s teachers-to-be.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

The Teaching Profession: What Reporters Need to Know

Teacher Carmen Perry, left, talks with EWA members at the International Academy for Young Women, a single-gender public school, on Oct. 20, 2014. (Emily Richmond/EWA)

The stakes have arguably never been higher for public school teachers, who are facing not only an increasingly challenging student population but also new demands for accountability and performance. What lies ahead for the nation’s largest profession, with the rollout of new academic standards and new assessments to gauge how effectively students are being taught?

Multimedia

Teaching Across Cultural Differences: Equity in Instruction and Classrooms
EWA Seminar on Teaching

Teaching Across Cultural Differences: Equity in Instruction and Classrooms

How are cultural and racial biases influencing classroom instruction and student learning? What does this mean for teachers and students, particularly in high-minority, urban school settings? What should education reporters know about cultural bias as it relates to their reporting on students, teachers, and schools?

Speaker:
Associate Professor Dorinda Carter Andrews, Michigan State University

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Covering Teachers: What Reporters Need to Know

The agenda is up for our next journalists-only seminar – The Push to Upgrade the Teaching Profession: What Reporters Need to Know. As you’ll notice, we’re spotlighting the work of some of the nation’s top education writers. Among them: 

  • Dana Goldstein, journalist for The Marshall Project, and author of the New York Times’ bestseller “The Teacher Wars: The History of America’s Most Embattled Profession.”

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Five Questions For… NCEE’s Marc Tucker
On School Accountability, Teachers, and the Common Core

Marc Tucker

Marc Tucker, president and chief executive of the National Center on Education and the Economy, recently unveiled a proposed accountability plan for public schools that includes significantly reducing the number of tests students take, and building extensive professional development time for teachers into every school day. He spoke with EWA.

Report

Teacher Attrition and Mobility: Results from the 2012-13 Teacher Follow-up Survey
NCES

This First Look report provides some selected findings from the 2012-13 Teacher Follow-up Survey (TFS) along with data tables and methodological information. The TFS is a follow-up of a sample of the elementary and secondary school teachers who participated in the previous year’s Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS). The TFS sample includes teachers who leave teaching in the year after the SASS data collection and those who continue to teach either in the same school as last year or in a different school.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Follow-Up Friday: Catch Up with EWA Radio

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for EWA Radio, the podcast I co-host with my EWA colleague Mikhail Zinshteyn. In case you missed the most recent episodes, you can catch the replays. (I’ve been told we make a fine accompaniment to walking the dog, moderate-paced elliptical trainer activity and even the occasional lunchtime Greek yogurt consumption.)

EWA Radio

Illinois Lawmakers Use Influence on Teacher Licensing
EWA Radio, Episode 10

Chicago Tribune investigation turns up instances of lawmakers intervening in teacher licensing decisions on behalf of their friends and donors. Tribune education reporter Diane Rado speaks with EWA’s Emily Richmond and Mikhail Zinshteyn about her ongoing coverage of licensing issues, and what it means for local students and schools.

Report

Mid- and Late-Career Teachers Struggle With Paltry Incomes

Low teacher pay is not news. Over the years, all sorts of observers have argued that skimpy teacher salaries keep highly qualified individuals out of the profession. One recent study found that a major difference between the education system in the United States and those in other nations with high-performing students is that the United States offers much lower pay to educators.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Atlanta Cheating Scandal: New Yorker Magazine Gets Personal

The July 21 issue of The New Yorker takes us deep inside the Atlanta cheating scandal, and through the lucid reporting of Rachel Aviv, we get to know some of the teachers and school administrators implicated. We learn not only how and why they say they cheated, but also about the toxic, high-pressure environment they contend was created by Superintendent Beverly Hall’s overwhelming emphasis on improving student test scores.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

The High Cost of Teacher Turnover

Nearly half of all teachers leave the profession within their five years on the job. (Credit: Flickr/www.audio-luci-store.it)

With the Vergara v. California lawsuit shining a spotlight on teacher tenure, it’s easy to forget that for many places, tenure isn’t the issue. The bigger problem is too many new teachers just don’t stay.

Report

Assessing and Evaluating Teacher Prep Programs

Effective teaching has long been an issue of national concern, but in recent years focus on the effectiveness of programs to produce high-quality teachers has sharpened. Long-standing achievement gaps persist despite large-scale legislative changes at the federal and state levels, and American students
continue to show poorer performance on international tests compared to peers in other developed nations. These and other factors have resulted in the creation of new accreditation standards for teacher education programs. These

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Obama Administration Announces Teacher Initiative

The U.S. Department of Education on Monday announced a new initiative to increase the number of high-quality teachers working in low-income and predominantly minority schools.

According to the Obama administration, Latino students are three times as likely as white students to attend schools where more than 20 percent of the teachers are in their first year of teaching.  

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Report: Nation’s Teacher Prep Programs Falling Short

If you’re wondering just how contentious a new set of rankings for the nation’s teacher preparation programs really are, consider this: the advocacy group that compiled them had to offer cash rewards to students for basic information such as syllabi when colleges and universities declined to provided them.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Rethinking Rookies: Why Are More New Teachers Quitting Early?

For decades teaching was considered a stable profession, with many individuals spending their entire careers at the front of the classroom. But the reality of a young teachers entering the teaching profession right out of school and only leaving when they retire is no more.

The subject of new teachers, and how long they’re staying in the profession, was the focus of a panel discussion at EWA’s 67th National Seminar in Nashville last month.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Will California Ruling on Teacher Tenure Help Latino Students?

A California judge on Tuesday issued a preliminary decision finding that the state’s teacher tenure laws disproportionately hurt disadvantaged and minority students.

Los Angeles Judge Rolf M. Treu went as far as to write that the situation “shocks the conscience” and violated students’ civil rights. The lawsuit alleged that tenure and layoff policies hurt students by making it harder to get rid of bad teachers.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

New Study Raises Questions on Teacher Absenteeism

You’d think it would be clear when a teacher is absent from class, but the response to this week’s big report from the National Council on Teacher Quality has shown that not every district agrees on the definitions for excused absences, and that efforts to curtail them are having little effect. The report also exposes the debate over what impact these teacher absences have on student learning. 

Blog: The Educated Reporter

In Minnesota School, Teachers Take Charge

Avalon School in St. Paul, Minn. doesn’t have a defined leader, but it’s easy to see who is in charge.

Instead of having a traditional principal, the charter school is governed by a cooperative of the teaching staff that oversees decisions such as curriculum, budgets and training.

Teachers share administrative roles and work as a group to make decisions.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Weingarten Talks Teachers, Politics and Common Core

Lyndsey Layton (right) of The Washington Post interviews Randi Weingarten at the 67th National Seminar.

When Randi Weingarten gets depressed about the state of public education, she told attendees of EWA’s 67th National Seminar, she calls up memories of her students at the “We the People” competition in upstate New York a couple of decades ago.

Report

Performance Screens for School Improvement: The Case of Teacher Tenure Reform in New York City

Tenure reforms in NYC led to a substantial drop in the percent of eligible teachers approved for tenure – from 94 percent during academic years 2007-08 and 2008-09, the two years prior to the introduction of the policy, to 89 percent in the first year of the policy (2009-10) and to an average of 56 percent during the three subsequent years.
The vast majority of eligible teachers who were not approved for tenure had their probationary period extended. The proportion of teachers denied tenure changed only slightly, from two to three percent, following reform.